Thursday, January 31, 2013

One of the ways I make myself happy

Liking or not liking where you live came up on an email list this morning.  Here is what I wrote:

Although I think some areas are a lot prettier than others, I figure I have to live where Bill's job is because he earns the vast majority of our income. Whether I initially like the place we live or not, I'm going to be there, so I find the positives about living in the area. Either that or be miserable, and I decided about 16 years ago I was going to be happy.

So Tucson?

I love the Mesquites, palms, citrus and the fact they are green all year 'round.
Saguaros are just such interesting, majestic things.
My favorite desert plant is the Ocotillo, which I never knew anything about before moving here.
I like having a classic "Arizona ranch" house because I've never seen them anywhere else I've lived.
I love the late fall, winter, and early spring because the weather is fantastic and I love never having to shovel snow.
I love that friends like to visit during those seasons and thus we get to see old friends (especially the one from Alberta, LOL).
I like living in a city of a million (including the surrounding area) because it means I can get nearly anything I need somewhere in the city.
I like living in a city with a big university (University of Arizona) because it brings lots of really smart people to the scientific and advanced programs, plus free student recitals, etc, Bill and I can take advantage of.
I like living in a huge ward where lots is happening.
I like having parks all over and outside the city.
I love having an airport only about 12 miles away right here in the city.
I like having a big Air Force base here because I like to see the jets flying over and to know we are important to our country's defense.
I like knowing we'll have a temple here, so close and convenient in just a few years.
I like having almost a surplus of excellent medical care available in the city.
I love Bill's good job.

See? There is so much I really like about living here. Did I "forget" to mention a few things? Of course. But I focus on the good stuff. Makes me happier that way.
[These are the girls at one of our favorite places to go in Tucson--the zoo.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another successful trip to Mexico

I always get a little nervous before I take Caroline to her orthodontist in Mexico.  I worry about having all our papers in order (birth certificate, passport), I worry about not getting the information I need from the doctor's office, I worry about Mexican border violence, although this particular city doesn't seem to be affected by the violence we hear about, I worry there will be a really long line at the border or at the freeway checkpoint, I worry I won't get her back to school on time, and of course I always worry about our general safety as we drive there and back.
As you can see, the freeway checkpoint was not a problem for us today. As we rolled up to the Border Patrol agent I got the bright idea to roll down all my car windows so he could easily see inside my car. The windows are quite dark against the Arizona sun and it can be a bit hard to see in. The drug/money/illegal alien-sniffing dog ignored my car I actually didn't even have to stop.
It was another flawless trip.!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My little engineer

Well, not really little. He's 20 years old. I guess this is what missionaries do when they have a few minutes of down time?

Monday, January 28, 2013

I've decided; this is where I want to go

Doesn't this look fantastic?  I don't know how long this walkway is or where it goes, but I want to walk it this fall.  Or spring, I guess, since it's in Brazil.  Put this on your itinerary, Kevin.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal Plan Sunday

Monday:  Chili over baked potatoes, carrot sticks, dip

Tuesday:  Hoppin' John [delicious!]

Wednesday:  Jerk Pineapple Chicken and Cilantro Lime Rice

Thursday:  Buffalo Chicken Bites (make a double batch and freeze half), carrot and celery sticks

Friday:  Pizza

Hmmm . . . these exist in Brazil too?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pantry Challenge Week IV

I did far more shopping this week than I have since before Christmas because I couldn't resist the Mega Sale at Fry's this week. As Jessica Fisher said, I wouldn't be a good steward of my family's finances to pass up an opportunity to add useful items to my family's cupboard just because it's the Pantry Challenge month.

That said, I picked up 5 gallons of milk, a bagel, and a bunch of bananas at Safeway this week: $11

In addition, this is what I bought at Fry's:
Everything here was $23.50. Really.

Food total for the week:  34.50

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mom called out and said, "Walk quietly and come see this!"

And this is what I saw:
Carolyn's cat Curio found a long piece of my quilting fabric on the floor. Usually he ignores things like that, but my mom said he nudged himself between the folded layers, then rolled over until the 5 yards of material was nicely arranged around him. The most surprising part was that he stayed wrapped up there for about five minutes before nonchalantly walking off.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Half of the shopping trip

I bought food items as well as cleaning items, but I'm keeping the food items for the Saturday roundup. Thanks to good sale prices and aggressive couponing, everything in the picture cost only about $12.50 + sales tax of 9.1%
Three toothbrushes and two tubes of toothpaste have already been given away. It's just so easy to get these items for free (+ 9.1% sales tax . . . ) that I get too many of them in the storage cupboard and NEED to give them away.

Read near the bottom of this post to get a great perspective on shopping during the Pantry Challenge.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tomorrow's shopping trip

I know, I know.  Pantry Challenge.  Don't shop gratuitously.  But I'm going to anyway.  This is the first time in more than a month I'll have shopped to add to the pantry vs. just use it within a week.

On the outside of the envelope I have my shopping list . . .
. . . and inside are all the coupons I intend to use.
Neat, huh?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guilty pleasure

Can you tell what this is?
Yes, it's a 3/4 eaten soft bagel with cheddar cheese and jalapenos baked on the top.  I bought and ate it while I waited for my mom to get a haircut today.  I hope she needs her hair cut again soon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Look what warm weather brought to our backyard

The weather this afternoon is 75F (24C) and sunny.  It's also a school holiday.  That means . . . water and mud.
Nice job on the grapefruits, huh?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meal Plan Sunday

Monday:  Skinny Slow cooker Southwest Chicken, rolls

Tuesday:  Skillet lasagne, green beans, cheesy garlic bread

Wednesday:  Cheesy Potato Soup, rolls

Thursday:  Chicken Divan, rolls (divide into two casseroles, freeze one)

Friday:  Pizza

Volunteer activity this past week

If you said you thought this was a monthly school staff luncheon hosted by the parents of two grades plus the PTA, you'd be right.

We had a nachos bar and everyone thought it was really delicious.

Included were:

3 kinds of Mexican cheese sauce
3 kinds of salsa
sweet peppers
sour cream
shredded lettuce
a dessert table with an assortment of cookies

I helped set up, then stayed on as the hostess to help the teachers and staff while they ate. I thought it tasted really good also. :-)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pantry Challenge Week III

The Pantry Challenge is to use what is in our fridges, freezers, and pantries to feed our families.  It doesn't mean not going to the store; it means to think creatively and buy less.

Safeway:  peanut butter, milk $4

Fry's:  pasta, Swiss cheese $4

Bountiful Baskets:  6 kinds of fruit and 6 kinds of vegetables.  A bag of small, sweet peppers is missing, mostly eaten. :-)  $16.50


Week total:  $24.50

Friday, January 18, 2013

My new avatar

My new job asked for an updated picture for their website, along with a short introductory video.
Here is the photo. My area manager likes it, so I'm satisfied. The video was to be a 1 minute introductory video and I didn't want it to be me staring at the webcam, so I asked a teenager in my ward who has video experience to help me. We went to a desert area nearby and shot it as I walked through the winter desert landscape. I'm very pleased with it as well.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ladies' luncheon

Almost every month the church ladies have a pot luck luncheon. Due to their schedule cancellations and my work schedule I haven't gone for many months but today the stars aligned and my mom and I went. We brought pizza and I had a slice of that along with fruit, a salad, a rice dish, and a croissant.
I'm a dessert girl and this was my favorite part--pumpkin crumble and peach cobbler.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New jeans!

I don't take my girls clothes shopping very often. Weird, I know. Typically I order clothes for them from Gymboree or The children's Place online. Now and then I pick up something for them from the sharing table at Relief Society. That's my favorite price--FREE. However, Caroline is growing out of everything, and being the biggest of the three girls, she doesn't have any hand-me-downs to receive from anyone. So . . .
. . . I took her shopping and she picked out two pairs of blue jeans and one pair of leopard print pants.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Warm water in the microwave oven

Why, WHY would I be heating a bucket of water in the microwave oven?
It's to give my poor chickens some drinkable water! They have two water dispensers and both are frozen. I figured if I was going to take new water out to them, I could at least heat it up a little.

They were highly suspicious of this strange container that didn't have food scraps in it.  All three danced around it looking at it for a minute or two before one of them finally put her beak in to see what it was.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Crazy hair day at school

Guess who the main morning hair styler is at my house?
Yes, it's Bill. Due to my work schedule, I usually can't do the girls' hair in the mornings and he does a fine job. The girls had all kinds of braids and funny things in their hair when they went out the door today. :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Meal Plan Sunday

Monday:  Progresso Recipe Starters homemade macaroni and cheese (from the freezer), broccoli

Tuesday:  Creamy Key Lime Chicken Enchiladas, brown rice

Wednesday: Hamburger Casserole Surprise! (Layer browned ground beef mixed with a can of tomato soup, then a drained can of green beans, then mashed potatoes, then a little cheese--bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.  It's a huge hit at my house--go figure!)

Thursaday:  Chicken Rice soup, rolls

Friday:  Pizza

Dessert:  Light & easy guava cheese empanadas

This used to be a common sight . . .

Yes, an egg from every chicken today. It has been at least six months since that has happened because Spot stopped laying long before she died. Even with the three girls we have now, we haven't had three eggs from them since sometime late last summer. Toek has not been laying and the others have been laying slowly. Charlotte tends to lay eggs with very thin shells, so I often find evidence of her eggs, but nothing to bring in to the house. Today was three nice eggs with good shells, different enough from one another that I know each chicken was represented there.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pantry Challenge Week 2

I had two shopping trips this week.
5 lb. carrots
brown rice
lime yogurt
Mexican-style cheese
wonton wrappers

All the missing ingredients to make next week's dinners--Fry's $11.

Wow--I couldn't resist a good deal at Safeway this week!

6 DiGiorno pizzas (only about $2.50 each)
sour cream
4 bagels in the brown bag
5 lb flour
4 gallons of milk

Safeway $27

In addition, when I was making up my shopping list so I'd have everything for next week's dinners, I realized I could easily make the three dinners this afternoon and freeze them for super easy dinners next week.  All the dinners are done now (except Friday pizza and I can do that too, if I feel like it) and in the freezer.

Check for the menu and recipes tomorrow.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rare sight at my house

Yes, commercial pizza. It happens about three times a year around here and tonight was one of those three.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Activity Day for Girls

I was looking for a great topic for today's class when my mom said, "Why don't you teach them how to write thank you notes?  It's the right time of year for that."  Perfect.

I found this article about writing thank yous (there's an unneccessary naughty word in it) and decided to do the activity day this way:

  • girls play outside for about 5-10 minutes
  • introduce the topic
  • give the girls paper and pencils to write down the 6 steps outlined in the article as I read and focus their attention on the 6 steps
  • give them cardstock already cut in half to each decorate and write a thank you card (may be done with blanks left in it to be completed at home)
  • snacks
  • play games if time is left
It was a low-key and successful Activity Day.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Pantry Challenge 50%

I think this space is going to have more food talk than usual this month.  Don't worry, I'll get back to the usual children and chickens in February.  Except for that Mystery Quilt.  Watch for updates on that soon.

Tonight was Baked Corn Dogs, a recipe Holly sent me.  You can see it on my Meal Plan Sunday post.  Mine look nothing at all like the ones in the recipe.  The recipe woman must have used the world's most absorbant flour if her measurements are correct.  My cornmeal dough was more like a thick batter and almost unusable.  I added at least 1/4 cup more flour and was able to get the dough around the dogs.
All that said, my family really liked this recipe.  It was almost like a corn dog but much lower in fat.  I served a trio of fresh vegetables with it.
That virtuousness was kind of undone by our dessert, and I went to the store to get it too.  Root beer floats hit the spot after our yummy corn dogs.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pantry Challenge

Tonight's dinner came from our pantry and evolved as the day went on.  My menu said beans and rice.  I had kidney beans in a bag in the cupboard, so I used those instead of the intended pintos.

Red beans looked like chili, so I pulled out a can of tomatoes, a jar of homemade tomato sauce, a fresh onion and bell pepper, and a few seasonings and made a nice vegetarian chili, then topped it with sour cream and sharp cheddar.
To go with that I made some cornbread with a bit of whole wheat in there, and drizzled it with honey.
Everyone liked it very well and it moved a bag of beans out of my pantry, as well as tomatoes I'd had for a year or so.  In addition we finished the carton of sour cream and got it out of the fridge.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sophia's ears

Sophia's ears have suffered injuries and she is a no-earring girl now.  We're hoping her ears will close up and she can have them repierced in a few years.
Those are my hands holding her hair back, by the way.  She didn't suddenly grow six sizes!
I'm putting the pictures here so I can compare them in six months, a year.  If they don't close, we'll have to figure something out.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Meal Plan Sunday

Monday:  Root beer pulled pork on buns, baby carrots and dip

Tuesday:  Beans and rice

Wednesday:  Baked corn dogs [everyone like this--I recommend adding at least an extra 1/4 c. flour to the corn coating]

Thursday:  Not-soggy nachos (using pintos from Tuesday)

Friday:  Pizza

Home teaching visit

Today our home teachers from church came by for our monthly visit.  One of them is a delightful elderly gentleman who speaks multiple languages, served in WWII, and is one of the smartest people I know.  The other is a new companion to the older man, although we know him fairly well.  He is very friendly and I can see we will have many pleasant visits from them as the months go by.
These aren't our home teachers, but the visit looked something like this.  I don't know why, but in the past we have not asked our children to be present during the home teachers' visit, although they are here to visit the entire family.  We decided to turn over a new leaf and the children will join us each month for the visit.  (They did great today.)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Pantry Challenge

This week I made two food purchases and one was at Costco.

I picked up

10 lbs of boneless, skinless chicken breast
flour tortillas
chocolate chips
2-pack maple-flavored syrup
5 dozen eggs

I spent $45.

The other purchase was 4 gallons of milk at Walmart, price matched to Albertson's.

I spent $7.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday night date

Bill's and my friend is an Edward Jones agent (investments) and took a booth at the Home Show in our town.  Along with the booth came a handful of admission tickets for his friends, including us. :-)

It has probably been a couple of decades since I've been to a home show and I was surprised at how aggressive the people in the booths were.  Either I'd forgotten or things have changed.  Or maybe the last time I went to one I was a teenager and obviously didn't have a home or money of my own anyway!

At the far end of the hall were Bill's and my favorite booths (other than the good chat we had with our friend).  I caught the end of a cooking competition when the chefs were describing their dishes.

Bill was especially interested in about a dozen classic cars on display.  The cars were really beautiful and I took a quick look at them after I watched the cooking.

After that we went to the Olive Garden for dinner.  Well, except for the 1 hour and 45 minute wait, that is.  We weren't interested enough to wait that long so we took ourselves to Golden Corral.  Kind of down-market, but it sure was tasty.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Surprise hike!

About a year ago I attended a Homemaking Meeting in which the speakers told about interesting places to go in our city both as a family and as a couple.  One of the speakers said a good activity was to see what was at the end of Speedway Boulevard.  She wouldn't say what was there, just winked and said go find out.

I needed to get the girls out of the house so the housekeepers could do a quick and efficient job, so I decided today was the day to find out what is at the end of Speedway.  I hoped it wouldn't be a dead end in a residential neighborhood, waiting for the housing market to improve so they could extend the street and put in more houses.

I was spared that one as it turned out Speedway ends at a private ranch (ignored that) and a public trailhead.  I hardly dared hope we would find a new (free) place to hike, but we did.

It was a little breezy and cool, but we had three jackets/sweaters with us and three bottles of water, so we had plenty.

This saguaro has three nice new arms on it.  Scientists don't know what triggers arm formation, but saguaros usually are about 50-60 years old before they start growing them.

I teased Elizabeth that this area was the home of native American Indians in the distant past and she might be running along the trails in the same sort of shoe they wore.  In fact, her shoes *are* Indian.  Yes, the kit Bill made them from was made in India.  LOL

It was a really fun morning and all of us are planning to take Bill there one of these Saturdays soon.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cinderlite, Carson City, Nevada

Sophia wore this shirt a few days ago and I realized it was the last time.  Just a little too short and skimpy on her.
So it's a gray T shirt with the name of a gravel hauling company from Carson City on it.  It wouldn't seem to mean much, right?

This shirt represents an interesting time of my life.  When I was 36 weeks pregnant with Sophia, and Caroline and Elizabeth had just turned two, we moved from Idaho to Carson City, Nevada for Bill's job.  Right after Sophia was born, David came to live with us and that was a dream come true for me.

Unfortunately, Bill's job ended unexpectedly in the early Fall, but he immediately got a job in New Mexico.  Problem was, David had just started his Senior year of high school and I wouldn't even think about taking him out right after he'd started at a new school.  So Bill headed off to New Mexico, leaving me in Carson City with a teenager, twin two-year olds, and a new baby. 

It didn't really seem too hard at the time, but I knew I had a lot of stress taking care of everything and making the budget stretch to cover two households.  Except for David who has always been good company, and phone calls/occasional visits from Bill, I was pretty lonely.

There was a small park about a ten minute walk from the house that I used to push the stroller to often.  It had low equipment that was perfect for my small daughters.  One day about ten mothers showed up with their little children.  I found out they were part of a mothers' club and they invited me to join.

I had never joined a community group like this, but I was very disappointed with the one the church ladies had organized, so I decided to join.

It was not long before we moved, but I remember going to other parks, going horseback riding, going to an interesting book presentation sponsored by PBS, and going on a field trip to Cinderlite.

Yes, a children's field trip to a gravel yard.

The tour guides had obviously done this many times because they knew the right stories to tell, the right place to stop so the children could play on a thirty foot pile of gravel, and so forth.  The last part of the excursion was a trip to the scales with a prize for the mother who could guess the total weight of the truck, trailer, and all of us.  I happen to excel at down-and-dirty mental math and came up with a very close number that won me this Cinderlite T shirt.

It was *way* too large for any of my girls, so I folded it up and put it in their drawer.  Eventually Caroline was big enough for it, then Elizabeth, and finally Sophia.  Every time I saw it on them it reminded me of "making it" on my own in Carson City (with financial support from Bill, of course ;-) ), of meeting really nice people in an unexpected place, of the pleasure of having David at home that year, and of having my three little girls.

See why I'm a little sad it's been outgrown?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Day Outing

After doing a lot of home partying and snacking last night, we decided to get out of the house today.  We love the zoo, so we headed there.
 There was a docent leading a table full of children in making party hats from recycled supplies. 
Aren't my girls cute?